BY ANDY BAGGOT
MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin men’s tennis coach Danny Westerman just landed the highest-rated recruiting class of his eight-season tenure, a development borne of persistence, friendship and misfortune.
The four newcomers – Collin Beduhn, Matthew Fullerton, Oliver Olsson and Tomas Zlatohlavek – are ranked 17th by the Tennis Recruiting Network and are expected to pay immediate dividends for a club that must replace four seniors and a grad transfer.
Beduhn and Fullerton are five-star prospects who hail from Minnesota. Olsson is from Germany and Zlatohlavek is from the Czech Republic.
“We lose a lot this year,” Westerman said, “so this was a really important class.”
This marks the third time under Westerman, a UW alum, that the Badgers have secured talent worthy of a top-25 ranking. They were No. 23 in 2018 and No. 24 in ’16.
“It’s our best one,” Westerman said. “Hopefully we don’t take a step back. We want to stay in the top tier of the Big Ten right away with this freshmen group.”
Major-college tennis has a different assessment model for categorizing recruits compared to other sports. The top 25 players are blue-chip prospects. The next tier, Nos. 26 to 75, are described as five-star talents.
Fullerton, from Edina, is 46th nationally and No. 1 in Minnesota. Beduhn, from Maple Grove, is No. 2 in Minnesota and 65th nationally.
“Five-star recruits are very hard to come by,” Westerman said.
A series of curiosities preceded that development, according to Westerman. He was the coach at Denver when he briefly crossed paths with Urban Ljubic, a highly regarded assistant with the Pioneers, and struck up a quick friendship. Westerman hoped to retain Ljubic, from Ljublijana, Slovenia, but Ljubic elected to become an assistant coach at Minnesota instead.
Ljubic spent 14 seasons with the Gophers where he was a four-time Intercollegiate Tennis Association regional assistant coach of the year. He helped bring in talent that produced 10 NCAA tournament berths, three trips to the Sweet 16 and the program’s first Big Ten title in 20 years.
“We’ve always recruited against one another for similar kids,” Westerman said.
When the global pandemic struck in 2020, many NCAA schools dropped sports for lack of adequate funding. Minnesota opted to shut down three men’s sports: gymnastics, indoor track and…
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